Freeport seniors prepare for college life

Jennie McKeon

While some seniors opt out of their last day of school, two Freeport seniors decided to stay through the day, reminiscing with students, teachers and savoring their last moments of high school.

"I stayed the whole day and soaked it all in," said Rani Simmons.

"I didn't have anything to do," added Sara Duross. "But I didn't want my last day of high school to be anticlimactic."

The two seniors have done so much in the past four years, from varsity softball to service clubs to student government, you would think it would be hard for them to leave Freeport High School. Instead, they look back fondly and look ahead with pure excitement.

"I look forward to the opportunities at University of Florida in the fall," Duross said. "I'm excited to become a Gator."

Duross has been anticipating UF well before she entered high school, she said, and is interested in becoming a pediatrician. Aside from serving as student government president and captain of the cheerleading team, Duross played softball, joined "practically every club," including Anchor Club, Key Club and National Honors Society, and managed to be No. 1 in her class.

"It was important for me to stay focused," she said.

Simmons, meanwhile, stayed busy throughout school with organizations such as Anchor club, where she recently served as president. She also was vice president of student government, and participated in Key Club, the National Honor Society as well as varsity softball coached by her father, Charlie. Through hard work and determination, she even managed to earn an honors/minority scholarship.

Charlie isn't the only parental unit working at the school. Simmons' mother, Donna, is an English teacher at Freeport High School. Donna and Charlie adopted Rani from India when she was 5-years-old. May 16 was her adoption anniversary.

"It's been 12 years and now I'm graduating and it feels like I just started school," she said. "It's been a blessing having their support right there. God truly blessed me."

As far as favorite memories, Homecoming is a big deal for many students. Duross counts all four years of Homecoming festivities as her most cherished memories. For Simmons, the 2013 Homecoming dance was particularly special, as she was crowned queen.

"It was a big honor for my classmates to vote for me as Homecoming queen," she said.

Being heavily involved in school was important to the two seniors. It was a way for the girls to socialize with friends and contribute to the school they loved.

"I thoroughly enjoyed it. In the end, it was all worth it," Simmons said of her busy schedule. "I want to expand my community service in college."

Simmons has applied for the Student Ambassador Leadership program at Northwest Florida State College, where she'll be attending in the fall. While undecided in what she'll ultimately study, Simmons knows she'd like a career that serves children, a passion of hers.

"Maybe a kindergarten teacher or a pediatrician," she said.

In taking the next step to college, Simmons only has a little apprehension.

"I'm a little nervous to be out of my comfort zone and meeting new people," she said. "In high school, you know everybody."

While Duross will be heading to Gainesville, she isn't nervous to be alone. Her boyfriend Joseph Petrone will be attending UF in the fall as well.

When it comes to the incoming freshman next school year, Duross and Simmons advise ninth graders to try everything and enjoy every last minute.

"It's going to fly by," Duross said. "So everyone should soak it in and enjoy it."